The decision by Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina to pull Jose Iglesias for not running out a ground ball, followed by a three-game benching, was meant as much to remind Iglesias why he was with the PawSox as it was to discipline him.
DiSarcina recalled when he was a roving infield coach three years ago, feeding grounders to the shortstop, then 19 and earmarked for success in the major leagues.
“He was an absolute pleasure to be around,” DiSarcina said. “I couldn’t hit enough ground balls out there for him. He was enjoying it.”
The circumstances of Iglesias’s current stint with the PawSox are different, though. Iglesias broke spring training with the parent club and batted .450 over six games, leaving his fingerprints on the Red Sox’ hot start.
It was only logical that he would be sent down once Stephen Drew returned from the disabled list, but that didn’t make it easier for Iglesias to accept.
“I think that’s part of the struggle,” DiSarcina said. “He did so good up there, then he got sent down and he feels like, ‘What more can I do?’ ”
When Iglesias arrived at Pawtucket, he had a buffer in David Ortiz, who was on a rehab assignment. Iglesias hung out next to Ortiz’s locker before games. But Ortiz was only there for eight days.
After that, it was just Iglesias and reality.
“I think what happened is he realized he wasn’t down here on a rehab assignment,” DiSarcina said. “I think reality set in he was in Triple A. We all react differently.
“When David Ortiz was here, it’s fine. It feels like he’s still there [in the majors]. When David leaves and he realizes ‘I’m not on rehab’ — it’s natural for him to have lapses.”
Over his first 19 games, Iglesias hit .235. But what alarmed DiSarcina most was a lack of hustle Iglesias showed in not running out a ground ball in a 4-1 loss to Durham May 4. He benched Iglesias.
“We can sit here and talk about multiple things that were going on,” DiSarcina said. “But basically it came down to whatever [Red Sox manager] John Farrell told him that he needed to do down here, he’s not doing.
“He’s never been a discipline problem. He’s on time. He does his work. He’s a good teammate, all those things. But there’s some things that need to be addressed.”
Iglesias knew it was a mistake not to hustle.
“I’m always playing the game hard and it was a tough moment for me at that time,” Iglesias said.
DiSarcina explained that the benching was for Iglesias’s own good.
“I deserved it and I knew that,” Iglesias said. “I think Gary did the right thing to hold me out. I’m glad he did that to me.”
Iglesias returned to the lineup May 8. His performance has been inconsistent (he hit .192 in his first seven games back) but his effort hasn’t.
“I think, for me, one of the bright spots out of those three days where he was down was his maturity coming out of it,” DiSarcina said.
“I see the smile back and the joy and that’s what it’s all about with Iggy.”
Three to watch
1. Mookie Betts: You won’t find his .230 batting average among the South Atlantic League leaders, but his OBP (.393) and OPS (.818) are up there. A 12-for-25 stretch (with three doubles and three home runs) earned him Player of the Week honors.
2. Blake Swihart: Factor in his 2-for-18 start and the Salem catcher’s current stretch is even more impressive. He’s batting .309 in his last 23 games with eight extra-base hits. Also, runners beware: He is gunning down 39 percent of potential base stealers.
3. Bryce Brentz: Things are clicking for the PawSox slugger. In his past seven games, he’s hitting .444 with a homer and six RBIs.
Still top Dogs
Even though they’ve cooled off since a seven-game win streak, the Portland Sea Dogs (22-15) have been in first place by themselves for nearly three weeks. It’s been five years since the Sea Dogs reached the postseason . . . In 15 innings, Sea Dogs reliever Pete Ruiz has notched 29 strikeouts. His 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings lead Eastern League relievers.